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Hoosiers screening unknown callers could miss COVID-19 contact tracing calls

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Some Hoosiers exasperated with robocalls have resorted to ignoring unknown numbers, leaving them at risk of missing calls from “contact tracers” hired by the state to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Approximately 500 contact tracers across Indiana are tasked with calling people who tested positive for COVID-19; questioning them about where they spent time before and after testing positive; identifying individuals they may have had close contact with; and tracking down and notifying people who were possibly infected.

Dr. Kris Box, the state health commissioner, issued repeated reminders to monitor all incoming phone calls and messages as health officials ramped up contact tracing efforts.

“If you get a call or a text from the Indiana State Department of Health, please answer us or call us back right away,” she said Monday during a virtual Statehouse briefing. “We want to make sure that we are helping you and those around you to remain safe.”

Contact tracers made nearly 3,600 outgoing calls, Box said; she did not indicate how many of the calls were answered.

State health officials had attempted to contact more than 50% of Indiana’s confirmed COVID-19 cases across 21 counties, according to the latest data.

However, an epidemiology expert with 17 years of public health experience cautioned against “[assuming] that everybody’s going to have a phone.”

“We may actually have to go door-to-door,” he said.

State health officials did not confirm plans to expand contact tracing correspondence beyond phone calls and messages.

Officials for the Marion County Public Health Department did not immediately respond to emails from News 8 requesting data for previous contact tracing efforts.

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